I did some kickboxing drills in college club. We did slips, but I'm trying to incorporate head rolls from YouTube into my home regimen. To me, it seems that one has to be superhumanly fast to see a strike being initiated and respond appropriately with a head roll. Does one really roll the head in after seeing an incoming strike? Or does one simply do the rolls as "evasive manuvering", hoping to be hard to hit?

2 Answers 2


Further to Steve's answer...

It is also worth analysing what it is, exactly, that you are reacting to. Novice fighters often concentrate on the opponent's fists or feet, whereas more experienced fighters tend to have a more 'total body' awareness.

I'll use boxing as an example here. If I concentrate on the fists, it is easy to get caught up in a dangerous process of prediction, in which you try to guess which hand is going to launch at you. To guess reliably is of course impossible.

Tremendous progress can be gained simply from changing your point of focus from the limbs to the sternum (roughly, the centre of the chest). When you do this, you begin to identify the ways in which the body telegraphs strikes from the hips and shoulders. It may not seem like much, but the consequences for your ability to react effectively are enormous.

Another way to gain reaction time is of course to maintain non-predictable (erratic) movement patterns, so that your opponent's strikes are hampered by a constant need to adjust to your location.

One of the best ways of all is to simply stay out of range. This is not really possible for a purely offensive fighter, but it is for a counter-puncher or a defensive fighter.

Lastly, learning to relax in the face of aggression will transform your defensive ability. When you are tense, you slow down a lot. Your ability to evade is almost crippled. I'm not saying you should be able to shed all fear (which can be very useful), but that you learn to defend without 'seizing' up. This requires an experienced and disciplined sparring partner, one who can challenge you without trying to 'win' or hurt you.

  • Thanks. I'm just looking at drills in isolation for now. My vision is poor enough that the whole body awareness is (largely) not an option. This is what I discovered years ago when training in a club. Aug 11, 2021 at 1:05

The question is whether head rolling in boxing is something done in response to seeing the strike coming or just done preemptively, without knowing there's a strike coming.

The answer is both. It's actually pretty fast and natural to see something coming and turn your head the other way. This is the way people react even without any boxing training whatsoever. It's like flinching.

But usually reaction times are on the order of a half a second to 3/4 of a second for most people when it comes to blocking a strike. Whereas a head roll might take a quarter of a second to a half a second to perform as a reaction. There are many punchers that can reach your head before that time runs out. But, chances are good that if you're the type of person that takes a whole second to react to a punch, you're not going to appear on TV or in any boxing matches. Why? You'll be washed out before you start. You just aren't elite enough.

So when you see boxers on TV, know that these guys are already kind of super human. They have very low reaction times. The sport has selected them. Only the top 0.01% are going to reach that level. (I just made that statistic up, but you get what I mean.)

There's also preemptive head rolling. If you can read your opponent well enough and have studied his patterns, you can guess what he's going to do next, before he does it. That gives you a head start (no pun intended). You can begin doing a head roll and evasion before or just as he starts to strike. It looks like they have almost no reaction time whatsoever. But in truth, they're just good at this.

To improve reaction times, you can pre-load this technique in your mind, so it's ready to use. The more you have to think about what to do, the more time it takes to react. So having it right on the tip of your brain will help your reaction time. Just be careful not to start doing it too often, because your opponent can see that you're doing that and may use that against you.

Hope that helps.

  • It does help. Thanks. It would have been surprising if the answer was cleanly black and white! Jul 20, 2021 at 18:43
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    @user2153235 Boxing is especially deceptive. It's totally deeper than what meets the eye. Jul 20, 2021 at 18:45
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    youtube.com/watch?v=Aogd3xPuQxw Jul 25, 2021 at 2:28
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    @user2153235 Yup. Good video. As the video explains, a punch will come before you have a chance to react to it with a slip, so you better be ready to slip right as your opponent begins to punch. That involves reading your opponent and pre-loading the idea in your head so that it's ready to use much quicker. If you don't do that, your reaction time will be slower than the punch, and you won't get out of the way in time. Slips take longer to execute than a head roll, too. Head rolls seem more of a last resort kind of thing, usually as the punch is coming. Jul 25, 2021 at 5:44

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